tv [untitled] June 27, 2011 12:00am-12:30am PDT
supervisor campos: good afternoon, everyone and welcome to the meeting of the san francisco board of supervisors government audit and oversight committee. my name is david campos. we are joined by supervisor farrell, president chiu will be in and out. he is also serving on the budget committee that is meeting at the same time. we have been joined by supervisor cohen. the clerk of the committee, we want to thank the following staff members. do we have any announcements? >> please turn off ringers on cell phones. allowed a speaker picard and place it to the right of the podium. it will appear on the july 12
agenda unless otherwise stated. >> i know many of you are here for a number of things. why don't we call an item number one. >> hearing on the standards, projects that may cause environmental health impact. >> this is an item that i introduced and let's make it very clear what the purpose of this item is. it is an item that will involve a general discussion of the standards and procedures that are followed in the department of public health as they provide a review of land use projects or other projects that come before the board that require their
expertise in terms of analyzing and the environmental health impacts of those projects. there may be members. the focus of this presentation and this discussion is for us to hear from the department of public health generally speaking on standards and procedures, the ethical guidelines that they follow. i thought it was important for us to have this discussion because anybody that follows the board of supervisors and of the many complex issues that come before us, including the complicated projects that come before the board for approval, they recognize the very important role that the department of public health plays. it is very useful for us as members of the board and as members of the public to know
what those policies, procedures, and standards are. i will ask the doctor of the department of public health to please come forward and began his presentation. let me first thank the doctor for being here and anyone that has worked with you does the level of professionalism to you bring to your job. we look forward to hearing from you today. >> i have a power point presentation. in addition, because we are involved in environmental regulation of land use in many ways, i've provided a background document for you as l.l. as
other members of the board with other details to review when you can. my presentation today is going to be roughly organized as follows. i will provide you with a very general ethical principles that we follow in all of our environmental health issues when related to regulation or environmental health assessments. i will provide some examples of the regulations and the environmental assessment work and some case studies. third, i will discuss some of the challenges that we encounter while we are doing some of the controversies, and that is how we address compliance and we have challenges. it will provide a very general overview and i fully expect many questions. so i will move through the
power point right now starting with the general and ethical principles. these relate to both the environmental health assessments. many of these are well- understood principles and are not necessarily codify in a document that the department has for the city has. all professionals understand this. we reinforce these principles of a routine matter and we discuss them whenever issues,. the first is to understand and a pulled environmental laws and regulations. if employee is not of holding deregulation, of pulling something else in the regulation, it is a serious issue. maintain impartiality and up activity by listening to opposing views.
it is important because we need everyone to understand and abide by the law. if people don't believe something, we need to make sure that we are listening to understand and we are able to provide those answers, make judgments on facts. on improving public health, it doesn't do anyone any service by doing anything other than strictly following and believing tax and weapons. these particularly apply to the regulatory work. but the work goes beyond regulation. we monitor environmental health conditions in the population to the extent they can. we must inform policymakers for
any knowledge that we know effects of and safety particularly if they develop action will change. we must work collaborative plea to the extent that we can to a improve the environmental conditions necessary for developing strategies. this gets applied in a few ways. the regulation and environmental health assessment, the health department is not the final decision maker about land use regulation and it is not the only factor taken into account. the planning department both making land use decisions as well as making an environmental review. and we are advisory to the planning department in that capacity.
would you have certain laws and regulations san francisco has some very unique regulations that are not found in other cities. i will discuss three of them in this presentation. so analysis for contaminated sites. and air quality assessment. the department and a consulting and advisory role supports environmental review. we review the environmental impact reports when asked for by members of the community or the planning department or when it is a major project that we feel we need to proactively review. we will provide those comments and additional analysis to the planning department for their consideration. we will discuss them and work
with the planning department on strategies if there are identified health effects. we have developed several innovative assessment tools that are not found elsewhere. the bread and butter i think is best described by soil analysis or hazardous wastes. this was an ordinance adopted had authored by a supervisor in 1986 and applies to historical landfill areas. our job is to approve site assessment and a final report. if the analysis shows levels of chemicals above a certain state standards for health and safety, we will ask the developer to develop a mitigation plan and measures to permanently control
those risks. we will make sure those measures are implemented. restrictions are put into place, we will close the project. this work is done in partnership. it is often done by environmental consultants. our job is to review and approve the work. it has been applied to over 321 projects since 1987. another example of our work is reflected in the construction plan for the hunters view redevelopment. the department under a law passed in 2008 is required to recruit -- to approve and dust control plans for projects one- half acre or greater. that is where there is dirt movement. in the redevelopment, which i think is a good example, it required a demolition of existing housing.
there were community sensitivities to toxic dust exposure. we developed a plan and approved a plan. we did a pre-construction with members of the community at a community meeting. we made sure that monitoring results were provided to members of the public in real-time in a public space. we conducted independent monitoring to ensure the concentrations were below the thresholds and actions levels. i think that is a good example of how this process should be working. a third example, and this is where we have been proactive, quite a bit proactive in terms of the state of the field, is reflected in air quality assessment and ventilation requirements for residential development. now, the federal government and state government have standards for air quality for certain
pollutants criteria. however, san francisco has won air quality monitor. we really don't know what to air pollution is at every point in the city. we do know that areas with high levels of traffic have higher concentrations of air pollution. this had been a well-recognized problem without any regulation elsewhere. working with the plan and put -- planning department, we required that all developers to, wherever there is a certain amount of track -- traffic, do a certain amount before the planning project was approved. that developer has to develop a mitigation plan, for example, using ventilation systems, or changing the air intakes, in order to keep the indoor air
clean, even if it is in a compromise the outdoor location. we approved the design and engineering plans for several dozen projects. ventilation requirements actually make the air cleaner indoors than outdoors and cleaner than many other projects. i think this will be more broadly applied. we are the only city in california that has such a law. many cities are struggling with the problem of locating housing in residential areas near freeways. an example of this in a form of analysis is that this work can be applied before the development process in planning. the redevelopment of the upper muni yard, there have been integrations of affordable housing into the project. highway 280 is a challenge
because of housing in this location. it the department was asked to work with community members and developers on what mitigation strategies might be deployed to make this project work for all interests. i am going to move next to the environmental quality act. i don't think i need to provide you with much background on this. briefly, every agency must evaluate potentially significant environmental impacts. environmental impact reports must identify impacts. this is why the health department works with the planning department in reviewing the environmental impact report. they routinely review analysis by critiquing analysis done by others and offering litigations and alternatives. an example of this, which i am particularly proud of, was the
case of the redevelopment of the trinity plaza apartments in 2003. this was the first time the department acted proactively to have a planning agency look at an issue that was not previously looked at in the process. an initial planning study concluded that the redevelopment of this and rent-controlled apartment unit would not have any adverse affects on housing or humans. we brought to the planning department evidence of the effects of the eviction and displacement, as well as alternative strategies from the scientific literature. the planning department looked at that evidence and made a change in their decision, deciding that this might have environmental impacts, and required the developer to come up with a no-displacement alternative. it was a proactive use of the public health role.
it was also the first project that brought it into the discussion around the california environmental quality act and how we can be productive partners in being consultants for the city and this law. the work on the law on inequality medications for ventilation, for roadway- compromised projects, was a direct result out of work done under ceqa. we reviewed the environmental impact report for the easter neighborhood plan. we identified this as a potential roadway impact. we provided the mitigation strategies. that has been included in the new mitigation strategy, even though a costly one, in the environmental impact report. so, we're getting to the end. our work in environmental impact assessment does not only deal with negatives or things that
are adverse or harmful. we are also concerned about creating a help the city. we are concerned that every neighborhood have the resources and conditions, the parks, schools, grocery stores, the safe and adequate housing that makes life healthy, that every neighborhood have access to jobs and transportation that makes life healthy. the hulk -- the health department is not the only agency in the city. all agencies can contribute to the health of the population. i think one of our long-term goal is to work with each agency to identify how they can do that. 12 will be developed with community partnership and planning as a healthy development measurement tool. it was developed between 2004 and 2006 with over 20 community organizations and 10 agencies sitting down together to decide, what does a healthy city look like?
how do you measure that in terms of measurable indicators? how do you change things? it was a great dialogue that created a tool that is being used in san francisco and used across the country. the website, there is a website for the tool that provides more information. the indicators in the tool, i think -- i will give you a sense of them. there are 80 indicators of different health-relevant conditions. we have mapped these for every neighborhood in the city. they document health-related conditions and demonstrate inequalities. there actionable by agencies and allow the city to track progress. one indicator and one measure, and i think this is -- i will explain why it is important for regulation -- transportation noise. in the course of this work, we created a new map of
transportation, a modern map of transportation noise in san francisco, which is shown at the right, using modern software and technology. before this, the city had not updated its transportation map. the last one was 1974. why is this important? we need to know what noise levels are to decide when and where we will design buildings to have adequate acoustical information to protect them. noise is an important and our mental health determinant. without this information, planning and building cannot do their job in regulating noise. this has been approved by the planning department and is now being used to make those decisions. it is the way our expertise and information actually integrates into the planning process. last, i will talk about some challenges and how we address those challenges. there are a number of real
challenges. when we are trying to do something new, identifying when there is a new concern that has not been regulated in every city and country, or by the epa, there are claims that local regulatory initiatives are not justified scientifically. when we raise new issues, we often get told by some members of the development community that this is a jump science -- is junk science. when we develop solutions, we are told it will paralyze the develop process. we need to take those concerns seriously and respond to them. it is a real challenge. when we get through that process and implement the regulations through a city process, when the department's approve it, when the board approves it, there is lit -- there is very little objection and challenge to the law. most developers, when the laws passed, they will follow the law
with very little difficulty. with the new law, time and learning is always necessary. we are often first in the country to develop a new law. we're figuring things out. the development community is figuring things out. we are figuring out how to work together. there are stumbles along that road. they are normal and should be expected. we always try to learn from those. we don't try to -- we try to learn from those and improve things. there is a reality for all environmental regulation that 24/7 monitoring is difficult. it requires an incredible amount of resources. what it tells us is compliance is dependent on buy-in either regulated party, which is what we focus on. regulations are challenged because people want a new regulation that does not exist
or once a standard much higher than what the city had agreed to. there is and where and occasional challenges to the regulatory judgment, mitigation plans, or settlements. last slide. how do we address compliance concerns? we get concerned both from regulated parties that they are being over-regulated, too stringent. we get complaints from residents that they want stronger regulations were more vigorous, more rapid, more punitive enforcement. they come from both sides. we rely first on educating the public and the stake holders on the science behind the laws, why they are important, and that really makes a huge difference. we readily use our enforcement tools. we use it in a progressive way. we teach. we will use warnings. and then come of violations.
we will bring people to hearings or bring city action when we need it. we try to identify the most efficient strategy is to reduce hazards. we are not necessarily stuck to one way or the first way this was done. when there is a challenge, i will read you what my inspectors do and what my staff does. i will review the law again and the science behind the law. if that is needed, we will ask independent scientists and other regulators to review our work. we will participate in public debates and hearings, make our case, and i think we will always listen and try to work with the parties. thank you very much. supervisor campos: that was a very thorough presentation. i think it provides good contact for this hearing. i just had a couple of follow- ups.
could you say a little bit more about what kind of training is provided to staff about some of the things we discussed? i thought the first slide was really important. it talks about making sure that you maintain impartiality and of the activity. you make decisions based on facts and evidence. i am wondering what kind of training, whether it is in place, or will be in place going forward, how that works. >> most staff are trained environmental professionals. they have professional training. the training has professional ethics and professional standards. the latter ones on the list reflect public health principles. not all professionals may be cross-trained in public health. these are more progressive or proactive, the duty to monitor, to inform, to advocate for
public health. it is more part of public health values. they are part of the training. we don't have any formal updates of these trainings during the course. there is a lot of on-the-job training. we will revisit these issues, we will revisit them at a staff level. i think it would be a good idea to reinforce these principles proactively among staff on a regular basis. supervisor campos: i think that is a very good idea. from my perspective, when there is a health issue that is implicated, when i look at the department of public health, my view is, these are folks who are looking at facts, looking at evidence based on scientific principles and data. how do you maintain an arms length relationship with either
side? with any of these projects, you work. to have people who have very distinct perspectives. being san francisco, you may have 850,000 opinions. how do you maintain that arm's length? >> it is definitely a challenge. i think that what i try to do myself and try to encourage is, believe in your interpretation. believe in the facts and science. don't be afraid to ask another opinion so you can either be more confident and uphold. realize that you could -- realize that you could be wrong and have something to learn. it is difficult when you have so many voices pulling in lots of different directions. one of the things that i just learned to limit the scope -- medical school, you want to police people. you want to say things that make
them feel good, right? it is very important to have trust in your professional judgment. you can listen. you can disagree, but maintain that. it is hard to beat in controversial situations. i think another thing that staff need to be more comfortable in is maintaining professional opinions in controversial situations. i think the risk is when there is controversy, there is more of a risk not of non-objectivity, but staying silent. i think that is the real risk. when public health people stay silent because they don't have the comfort of dealing in controversial situations -- land use development, as we know, is controversial. supervisor campos: i think you are going to college as you see it and speak up when there is an issue. colleagues, i don't know if any of you have any questions for
him. supervisor cohen? supervisor cohen: thank you. if you could summarize to the committee and public how the planning department look -- works with other agencies, in evaluating and mitigating environmental impact associated with the environmental development project. >> i would actually -- it would be great if representatives from the planning department could also speak to this. i don't want to be speaking to -- for the planning department. from our perspective, there are three categories. one is the case of regulations, regulations that we enforce. for the planning department, when a new proponent comes from -- for a particular project,